Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects, Volume I : Sacred Roots: Material Entities, Consecrating Acts, Priestly Puppeteers book cover
1st Edition

Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects, Volume I
Sacred Roots: Material Entities, Consecrating Acts, Priestly Puppeteers

  • Available for pre-order on June 23, 2023. Item will ship after July 14, 2023
ISBN 9780367713379
July 14, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
304 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations

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USD $170.00

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Book Description

This anthology of essays aims to explore the many types of relationships that exist between puppets, broadly speaking, and the immaterial world.

The allure of the puppet goes beyond its material presence as, historically and throughout the globe, many uses of puppets and related objects have expressed and capitalized on their posited connections to other realms or ability to serve as vessels or conduits for immaterial presence. The flip side of the puppet’s troubling uncanniness is precisely the possibilities it represents for connecting to discarnate realities. Where do we see such connections? How do we describe, analyze, and theorize these relationships? The first of two volumes, this book focuses on these questions in relation to long-established, traditional practices using puppets, devotional objects, and related items with sacred aspects to them or that perform ritual roles. Looking at performance traditions and artifacts from China, Indonesia, Korea, Africa, Brazil, Iran, Germany, and elsewhere, the essays from scholars and practitioners provide a range of useful models and critical vocabularies for addressing the ritual and spiritual aspects of puppet performance, further expanding the growing understanding and appreciation of puppetry generally.

This book, along with its companion volume, offers, for the first time, robust coverage of this subject from a diversity of voices, examples, and perspectives.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Notes on Contributors




Jane Marie Law


Claudia Orenstein and Tim Cusack


Section I: Shamanic Lineages


  1. Puppets and Souls: Some Encounters in Korean Shaman Ritual

Laurel Kendall


2. Mamulengo and Spirituality: Are There Still Some Connections?

Izabela Brochado


3. Yaya Coulibaly and Sogo bò: The Puppet Remains the Soul of the People

Interview with Yaya Coulibaly 

Heather J. Denyer 

4. The Hula Ki`i, The Dance of the Sacred Image, Hawaiian Puppetry 

Napali Souza interview with Aulii Mitchell


Section II: Communal Celebrations           


5. Japanese Karakuri Ningyō and the Performance of Shinto 

Yasuko Senda and William Condee

6. Superhuman Superpowers: Puppets and Masks of Bhaona from the Assam Region of India

Deepsikha Chatterjee 


7. Wayang Ritual Drama of Cirebon: Continuance of a Kratophanic Tradition

Matthew Isaac Cohen


8. "I Have Come to Do a Purification": Interview with Nakauchi Masako and Minami Kimiyo

Tomoe Kobayashi and Simon Moers


Section III: Powerful Players


9. Passing Down Through Shadows: Chinese Shadow Puppetry’s Ghostly Transmission

Dr. Annie Katsura Rollins


10. The Matter That Matters: An Exploration of Power and Materiality in Thai Nang Yai 

Claudia Orenstein

11. Consecrated Puppets: The Puppet Deities of Southern China and Taiwan

Robin Ruizendaal


12. Exploring Spirituality in Tholpavakoothu Shadow Puppetry of Kerala: Conversation with Puppeteer Ramachandra Pulavar

Sangeeth Sankar A. and Rahul Koonathara 


Section IV: Doctrinal Dialogues


13. Islam, Animism and Animation of Objects: Growth and Restrictions of Puppetry Under the Shadow of Religion

Salma Mohseni Ardehali and Mir Mohammadreza Heydari

14. Saintly Puppet Masters and Sacred Clowning: Antinomian Religion and Patterns in Islamic Puppetry of Java

Kathy Foley 


15. Performing Death: A Medieval Puppet of Christ

Michelle K. Oing


Section V: Holding Heritage


16. The Enchanted Kaavad: Hierophany in Motion

Nina Sabnani


17. Forging a Material Connection to the Divine: The Life Cycle Rituals of the Sefer Torah

Joseph Maybloom



Claudia Orenstein, Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, has spent nearly two decades writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia. She is co-editor of Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations and The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. She is a Board Member of UNIMA-USA and Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal. She received a 2021-22 Fulbright Research Fellowship for research on ritual puppetry in Japan.

Tim Cusack is an adjunct lecturer in the Theatre Department of Hunter College. He was the assistant editor for both the Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance and Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations. He is the co-author along with Rachel Kranz of the first two editions of Gay Rights, focusing on LGBTQ-related Supreme Court decisions, published by Facts on File. His essay analyzing Susan Sontag’s celebrity persona through the lens of queer performativity was published in Sontag and the Camp Aesthetic: Advancing New Perspectives. He has also written on Charles Ludlam’s ventriloquist dummy, Walter Ego, and Burt and Ernie’s queer subtexts.

Salma Mohseni Ardehali is an Iranian puppet artist, puppet scholar and university lecturer. She studied puppetry and animation at university. She has been working as a puppeteer since 2001 and has been active in writing, translation and research around puppetry and related interdisciplinary fields. She teaches basics and history of puppetry, puppet manipulation, and puppet making at university. Her research interests focus on contemporary puppetry (of Iran) and related interdisciplinary areas. She has been UNIMA-Iran board member and councilor since 2009. She is the member of Iran ASSITEJ and Association of Iranian Puppeteers. She has been a UNIMA EC member and president of the Cooperation Commission since 2021. 

Izabela Broachado is a retired professor and collaborating researcher at the Post Graduate Program of the Department of Performing Arts at the University of Brasilia. Her PhD thesis, "Mamulengo Puppet Theatre in the Socio-Cultural Context of Twentieth-Century Brazil" (Trinity College Dublin - 2006) is a historical and aesthetic study on Brazilian popular puppet theatre, which is the focus of her academic research. She coordinated the process of registration of the Mamulengo as Cultural Heritage of Brazil within the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute - IPHAN - Ministry of Culture.She integrates the Cia Trapusteros Teatro, along with the Spanish puppeteer and director, Marcos Pena. She is currently member of UNIMA Heritage Commission.

Deepsikha Chatterjee teaches design at Hunter College CUNY. She is a practicing costume designer with several awards to her name. She received her undergraduate degrees in India before moving to the US for her MFA in Costume Design from FSU. Currently she is writing her dissertation on masked dances of South Asia at CUNY Graduate Center. She researches costumes, masks, and performance design from South Asia and publishes on these topics. Her essay on Indian dance costumes won the USITT’s Herbert D. Greggs Honor Award in 2021. She produces and presents dance from India in New York for Indo American Arts Council.

Matthew Isaac Cohen is a professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts, University of Connecticut. He has been studying traditions of shadow puppetry in Indonesia since 1988 as a scholar-practitioner and has published extensively about Indonesian theatre, dance, and music. Recent volumes include Inventing the Performing Arts: Modernity and Tradition in Colonial Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press) and the freely downloadable Indonesian-language anthology Wayang sebagai Media Ekologi (http://wayang-ecology.com/). He is honored to have received royal titles from the courts of Kacirebonan and Kasepuhan (in Cirebon) and Surakarta Hadiningrat (in Solo) acknowledging his services to Indonesian puppet arts.

William Condee (Baker and Hostetler Professor Emeritus of Humanities, Ohio University) is author of Coal and Culture: The Opera House in Appalachia and Theatrical Space: A Guide for Directors and Designers. His work on Nonmaterial Performance (co-author Barry Rountree) is in Theatre Journal, TDR, and Imagined Theatres. Articles on puppetry appeared in Puppetry International, Studies in Theatre and Performance, and forthcoming in Representing Alterity. His work on German theater (co-author Thomas Irmer) is in A History of German Theatre and Theatre Journal. Condee was Visiting Professor at Chubu University, and Fulbright Specialist at University of Leipzig and University of Malaya.

Yaya Coulibaly is a Malian puppetry artist born in the Koulikoro region in 1957. He is the descendant of an ancient family of Bambara puppetry artists, originally from the Segou Kingdom. He first trained in masked performance and puppetry with his father, starting at the age of ten years old. He then studied at the National Institute of Arts and at the renowned École nationale supérieure des arts de la marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France. In 1980, he founded the Sogolon Company to promote the traditional puppetry of the Bambara, Somono, and Bozo cultures of Mali. He is the owner of an impressive puppetry collection that includes around 500 puppets from his family—some dating back to the thirteenth century.

Heather Jeanne Denyer is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton, where she teaches world theatres, dramaturgy, and puppetry. Her scholarship focuses on African theatres and women. She has written on women puppetry artists in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire for Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations, and has contributed several articles on African puppetry for Puppetry International. She also translates African plays written in the French language to English, including Aristide Tarnagda’s Musika, PAJ 123, which won honorable mention for the first ASTR Translation Award. She is currently developing an English-language website of African playwrights writing in French.

Kathy Foley is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the UC, Santa Cruz. Research was assisted by UCSC Arts Research Institute and Committee on Research, Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale University Art Gallery.

Mir Mohammadreza Heydari is an Iranian artist and freelance researcher. He studied Cinema at Cinema and Theatre Faculty of Art University of Tehran. So far, he has made several experimental short and feature films and staged two theatrical research projects. His research articles focus on the relationship between performing arts and Iranian religious beliefs, as well as the history of performing arts in Iran.

Laurel Kendall is Curator of Asian Ethnographic Collections at the American Museum of Natural History, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and Adjunct Professor in Anthropology at Columbia University. Kendall's acquaintance with South Korea began in 1970 as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer where a chance encounter with female shamans prompted her subsequent anthropological fieldwork and many publications. Her recent work concerns the emergent field of material religion, most particularly the use of ensouled images in Buddhist and Hindu practice and in the work of shamans and spirit mediums. Her Mediums and Magical Things: Statues, Paintings and Masks in Asian Places (University of California Pess, 2021) brings Korean popular religious practice into dialogue with Vietnam, Myanmar, and Bali, Indonesia.

Tomoe Kobayashi Graduated from Musashino University (Tokyo, Japan) in scenography, She works as a costume designer-prop creator. She has worked with Philippe Genty, Eric Antoine, and Mika Kurosawa on many occasions, alternating creations in France and Japan. She is a laureate 2019 of the Villa Kujoyama (Kyoto, Japan) and collaborates with Simon Moers on puppet projects. They are interested in Japanese puppetry outside of the theatre and research on this subject.

Rahul Koonathara was born as a younger son of Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar and K.N.Rajalakshmi on 16-01-1996. Rahul belongs to a traditional lineage of puppet practitioners still preserving the temple's traditional artform, Tholpavakoothu. Rahul is currently a graduate student in the Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies department at the University of Connecticut. Rahul practices the traditional style of shadow puppetry performances with contemporary puppet productions and academic research on Puppet arts.

Jane Marie Law is Associate Professor of Japanese Religions at Cornell University. Her work, including her 1997 book Puppets of Nostalgia: The Life, Death and Rebirth of the Awaji Ningyô Jôruri Tradition, and other articles on puppetry, explores the spiritual and ritual logic inherent in the use of human effigies to enact inner healing, revitalization, and community cohesion. She is also the founder and director of a small ecology center in Ithaca, NY, Fallen Tree, which operates in the Zen tradition and explores contemplative, simple living combined with activism to address the ecological crisis in which we find ourselves.

Joseph Maybloom is Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Student Success & Senior Director of Enrollment at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He holds an MA in Theatre from Hunter College and a BA in Theatre Performance & Theatre History from Marymount Manhattan College. His research explores the role of objects in Jewish ritual and how performance and materiality cultivate notions of Jewishness.

Kumu hula Charles Aulii Mitchell was born in 1961 on the island of O`ahu. He was raised in the traditions of hula `ōlapa under the tutelage of his mother Kumu Hula Harriet Aana Cash and his grandfather Charles Kahiwahiwa Cash. Both were close companions and students of Joseph Kealiikuikamoku Ilalaʻole o Kamehameha, Samuel Pua Haaheo, and Mary Kawena Pukui. Kumu Aulii pursued his bachelorʻs degree at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo in anthropology followed by a masterʻs degree in Applied Indigenous Knowledge in Tāmaki Makarau, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand and the only one in the United States to hold this degree. He Waka Hiringa (The Desired Canoe) and his work continues to thrive between Hawai`i and New Zealand. He is a distinguished world wide lecturer, keynote speaker, author, performer, producer, artist and kumu hula of both Hālau `o Kahiwahiwa on the islands of Hawai`i and O`ahu, and their sister hula academy in Aotearoa, Hālau O Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. A lifelong practitioner of the hula,

he continues the legacy of his loea hula and his 40 years of research, creation, preservation, perpetuation, and the dissemination of Hula Ki`i, the dance of the sacred image, Hawaiian Puppetry.

Simon Moers was trained in dramatic interpretation at the INSAS, Brussels, then continued his studies at the ESNAM in Charleville-Mézières. At the end of his courses, he co-founded the puppeteers' collective PROJET D, based in France. In 2016 he created the Belgian company MINIGOLF Show Club in partnership with artist-sculptor Coline Rosoux. Simon works in parallel with the artist Simon Delattre and his company Rodeo Theatre. In 2019 he was a laureate at the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto. Since then, he has developed several Franco-Japanese projects around the arts of puppetry in collaboration with the costume artist Tomoe Kobayashi.

Nakauchi Masako was born in 1967 in Ichiu, Tsurugi-cho, Tokushima, Japan, and began her research activities in 1995 under Tsujimoto Kazuhide (founder and current advisor of the Awadeko Hakomawashi Preservation Society). From 1999 to 2001, she accompanied the kadozuke of her master, a Sanbasō mawashi puppeteer, in Higashimiyoshi-cho and later became his successor. In 2004, she was appointed as the second-generation president of the Awadeko Hakomawashi Preservation Society. Since 2022, she has been a representative of Awadeko Hakomawashi at the Tradition Museum in Nagoro, Village of the Dolls. She received the Awa Culture Creation Award from Tokushima Prefecture in 2009 and the Tokushima Arts and Culture Award in 2020.

Michelle K. Oing is a scholar of late medieval art, focusing on the intersection of sculpture and performance in Europe. She received her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from Yale University, and is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. Her current book project examines the role of moveable sculpture in Northern Europe through the conceptual framework of puppetry, paying particular attention to notions of play. Bringing together insights from art history and performance studies, her work seeks to highlight the dynamic interaction of humans and objects in the creation of meaning.

Minami Kimiyo was born in 1965 in Nakacho, Tokushima, Japan. She has been a member of the Awadeko Hakomawashi Preservation Society since its creation in 1995 and has been involved in the research, transmission, and documentation of the form since 2001. She has also accompanied her master and Ms Nakauchi on numerous kadozuke of Sanbasō mawashi. In 2004, she became vice president of the Awadeko Hakomawashi Preservation Society. From 2022, she has been a representative of the Awadeko cultural archive in Nagoro, Village of the Dolls.

Padma Shri Ramachandra Pulavar. K.K.Ramachandra pulavar was born on 25-05-1960 to the late Guru Shri K.L. Krishnan kutty pulavar and Gomathy ammal. He was born into a traditional Tamil family that migrated to Kerala generations ago, intending to propagate the art form Tholpavakoothu. He started training the ritual shadow puppetry under his guru (and father) at the age of six. He belongs to the 11 th generation of puppeteers who followed the guru Shingi Pulavar, who is considered as the scholar who composed and directed the first Tholpavakoothu performance in the form of the epic Ramayana. Apart from practising the ritual performance on temple premises, Ramachandra is also engaged in creating contemporary shadow puppet shows to promote the art form in India and abroad. He has been honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2021 and many national and international awards.

Annie Katsura Rollins is a researcher, community arts worker, theatre artist, and educator, with an artistic practice based in traditional Chinese shadow puppetry. In 2019, she was named Concordia’s Fine Arts valedictorian for her PhD dissertation on the precarity of safeguarding traditional puppet forms. Annie teaches at the University of Connecticut and Centennial College and harnesses the transformational power of community arts to help settle newcomers to Canada at MABELLEarts in Toronto. Portfolio at www.anniekatsurarollins.com. Chinese shadow puppetry information at www.chineseshadowpuppetry.com.

Robin Ruizendaal was the director of the Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei from 2000 to 2020, Taiwan, with a collection of over 10.000 Asian theatre puppets and related artifacts. He is currently working on the Asian theatre puppet research project of the National Taiwan Museum. He holds a Ph.D. in sinology from Leiden University in the Netherlands (Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou, Brill publishers, 2006). He has published widely on Asian puppet theatre (Asian Theatre Puppets, Thames & Hudson, 2009 etc.) and was curator numerous (puppet) theatre related exhibitions around the world. He has written and directed more than 20 modern and traditional Taiwanese (puppet) music theatre productions, that have been performed in over 30 countries around the world.

Nina Sabnani is an artist and storyteller who uses film, illustration and writing to inform and enlighten her audience. Her research interests focus on exploring the dynamics between words and images in storytelling. As a filmmaker she brings together animation and ethnography in old and new ways. Her published stories are often rich collaborations with artists and folk fablers and have earned critical acclaim. Her doctoral thesis on the Kaavad tradition has been published in a book; Kaavad Tradition of Rajasthan, a portable pilgrimage. Currently, she is chair of Immersive Learning at Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore.

Sangeeth Sankar A is a researcher and filmmaker who is currently pursuing PhD at IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay. He has completed M.Tech. from Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay. He is the co-founder of Asti.design which provides identity solutions and visual storytelling for social and environmental welfare groups. Previously, he coordinated the Nila International Folklore Festival in 2021, curated IPPO Art Exhibition in 2018, and co-founded a social venture named Rural Caravan Pvt. Ltd. in 2016. Sangeeth is a recipient of the MMF-PARI fellowship in the year 2022-2023 and the Tata fellowship in the year 2014-2016 

Yasuko Senda is the author of Treasure House of Karakuri Ningyo (1991, Japanese), Karakuri Ningyo Maker Shobei Tamaya 9th (1998, Japanese), World of Karakuri Ningyo: Picture and Illustrated Book (2005, Japanese), and Karakuri Ningyo Japanese Automata (2012, English). Ms. Senda toured the U.S. with the Japanese Youth Goodwill Mission, sponsored by the Japanese government, and graduated from Aichi Women’s College, majoring in English Literature. She taught English to children and was lecturer at Aichi Shukutoku University. She founded Minerva Nagoya, a volunteer group dedicated to international understanding and cultural exchange. She has been a member of UNIMA for 36 years.


Nāpali Souza is lead student (apprentice) of Hālau `o Kahiwahiwa. He is the grandson of the famed composer and musician Imgard Farden Aluli who wrote over 200 songs. Nāpali is the co-creative director of the Hawaiian influenced menswear brand, Salvage Public. He is a graduate of the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and the William S. Richardson School of Law. His passion for the practice of hula is embedded in his DNA and Nāpali leads with the spirit of that passion.

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Claudia Orenstein is Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has spent over a decade writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia.

Tim Cusack is an Adjunct Lecturer in Theatre at Hunter College. He was the co-founder and artistic director of Theatre Askew, an independent theatre company dedicated to the exploration of representations of queerness onstage. Puppetry has always been an aspect of his creative process.